Week 1: Texans-Chargers matchup analysis
Houston Texans (0-0) at San Diego Chargers (0-0)
Monday, 10:15 p.m. ET, at Qualcomm Stadium, San Diego - TV: ESPN
*TV announcers: Chris Berman, Trent Dilfer, Sal Paolantonio
*Keys to the game: The Texans have injury concerns to several players head coach Gary Kubiak admitted the team is " counting on huge." One of them is not RB Arian Foster, a San Diego native who says he's full strength despite sitting out the entire preseason. He'll likely log 15-20 carries and be spelled liberally by Ben Tate as Houston works to set up play-action. Also expected to play is rookie WR DeAndre Hopkins, who is being counted on to provide a threat opposite Andre Johnson. Houston's most pressing question is whether S Ed Reed will be available. San Diego underwent an extreme offensive line makeover and enters the season with significant questions to answer in that department. San Diego must run the ball out of the gate or the Chargers will be dominated in time of possession and QB Philip Rivers will be exposed to the blitz-heavy Texans defense.
*Matchup to watch - Texans LT Duane Brown vs. Chargers OLB Dwight Freeney: Freeney is listed as an outside linebacker, but in reality his impact in his Chargers debut will come as a pass rusher with his hand on the ground. He's very familiar with Brown from their years of battling in the AFC South. Brown said there's mutual respect as Freeney " can still bring it" and the two don't do much talking during games.
*Player spotlight - Chargers NT Cam Thomas: The fourth-year player starts just his sixth career game. He's being asked to anchor the middle of a 3-4 defense against one of the league's premier rushing attacks.
*Fast facts: Houston has won four straight road openers. ... Rivers and Antonio Gates have connected for 56 touchdowns, the most for a quarterback-tight end tandem in NFL history.
WHO WILL WIN AND WHY
While the Chargers are debuting an up-tempo offense with questions along the line, Houston has a very proven commodity in its ground-based, play-action attack. Combined with unproven players in the middle of San Diego's defense, and it makes for a solid primetime road win for the Texans.
*Our pick: Texans 28-17